U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney sentenced Adau Mornyang to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
Prosecutors had sought a month in jail for Mornyang. But Carney said he believed she was truly sorry after she tearfully read a statement in court saying she is now receiving treatment for anxiety and depression brought on by childhood trauma, instead of self-medicating like she did at the time of the flight.
"I've learned to deal with my emotions and trauma in a proper way," Mornyang said as she stood crying with her arm around her lawyer, her usually long hair cropped to a short flattop.
The incident, she said, has "pushed me to have proper medical treatment."
She talked about the humiliation of hearing the recording of herself during the trial.
"I'll do what it takes to prove to the world that I am not that woman," Mornyang said, and asked the court for "forgiveness, kindness and mercy."
The 25-year-old, a native of South Sudan who migrated to Australia as a refugee at age 10, was convicted of felony interference with a flight crew and misdemeanor assault. She was acquitted of a third count of assaulting an air marshal.
Mornyang was nine hours into a Jan. 21 flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles and had apparently been drinking wine excessively when she began "yelling obscenities and racial slurs and flailing her arms," prosecutors said in their sentencing memorandum.
Her fellow passengers complained to the crew. But she only lashed out more when flight attendants attempted to calm her, and she slapped one of them. Several air marshals had to come out from undercover to help deal with her, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said in court Monday that Mornyang's statement of remorse said little about the passengers and crew whose flight she made so difficult.
But Carney welcomed the statement, and he said before sentencing that "I do believe she's remorseful and that she's committed to getting treatment to make sure this never happens again."
Carney said he had often sentenced terrorists, murderers and drug dealers, and that "those people need to be in custody," but not people like Mornyang.
"The trial process was punishment in and of itself," Carney said.
He added that her financial circumstances made the fine that would usually come with this crime untenable.
Mornyang is also required to submit to drug tests and receive mental health counseling throughout her three-year term.
She appeared relieved as the hearing ended. She did not talk to reporters outside court.
"I want you to have a wonderful life," the judge said after handing down his sentence. "I hope I never see you again."
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